Almighty So 2

At just 28, Chief Keef has churned out dozens of projects in nearly as many different styles. His influence can be felt from rap’s top rung like Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert to the toasted digital landscapes of new-age acolytes like Xaviersobased and Devstacks. He’s one of the pioneers of the Chicago drill sound, and while there have been peaks and valleys—being a volume shooter often comes at the expense of a spotless track record—he’s never lost the thrilling “Lex Luger and Brick Squad dipped in the Chicago River” quality he’s been honing since the “Faneto” days. Even when he’d miss, the boldness of his experiments kept heads intrigued.

One of those peaks was 2013’s Almighty So, a mixtape where Keef and a slew of producers melded drill with the chirpy cloud-rap-adjacent aesthetic that would soon populate SoundCloud. Street rappers weren’t spitting over production like Yung Lan’s “Ape Shit” or Abe Beats’ “Young Rambos” back then, and that adventurousness, coupled with bars comparing guns to dildos, turned Almighty So into a cult classic among fans and slightly younger contemporaries. Between arrests, label disputes, and being blacklisted from shows in his home city (until recently), Keef’s been through a lot on and off the mic over the last decade. Through it all, a sequel to Almighty So, first announced in 2018, has lingered in the margins. Despite Keef’s reservations about being hooked on drugs during that era, it garnered the kind of mythic status usually reserved for alt-rap team-ups and AAA albums that never were. But Almighty So 2 is real, as vibrant and busy and flippant as anything Keef’s ever made, a capstone that brings the first-wave drill he helped popularize screaming into the future.

What stands out most about Almighty So 2 is just how different it is compared to the original. As opposed to hiring a dozen producers, Keef employs himself on all but one of 16 tracks. So 1 is airy and saturated, the audio equivalent of watching a neon sign flicker and short out. So 2 crashes in like the Kool-Aid man, leaving a trail of sticky footprints. It also borrows and mutates elements from other Keef extravaganzas: The Trap-A-Holics tributes dotted across this year’s Mike WiLL Made-It collab Dirty Nachos seem to have influenced the drops for fake radio station 4NEM Radio that pop up here; Ghanaian-Liberian comedian Michael Blackson, whose interludes powered much of 2013’s Bang Part 2, is back and desperately trying to make his DJ Drama-esque ad-libs funny. But these would just be nostalgic touches without Keef and his co-producers’ enveloping beats. On “Jesus Skit,” Blackson’s cloying bit about Black entertainers getting reparations is drowned out by Keef, Slowburnz, and MBZ’s production, their hellish keyboard stabs and Gatling-gun drums transitioning smoothly into Keef and longtime collaborator Lil Gnar’s verses on “Jesus.” It’s an update on an older formula that is fuller and more ambitious.

Keef’s ear has always been geared toward the dramatic, and Almighty So 2 gives his gothic raps a new grandeur. His best songs have a certain rawness to them, but here, the mixes are crisper, more professional-sounding. Leveling up in the studio can sometimes mean sanding off the edges, but every one of these songs is diamond-sharp. “Almighty (Intro)” takes a sample of the oft-used Carl Orff composition “O Fortuna” and chops it up while snare drums flurry underneath, building tension as a voice levels affirmations and insults for over a minute (“Your mama could have you all over again, you still couldn’t be me”). Then Keef comes in and the drums gallop while he drops bizarre flexes (“She put my nut in her cup and she chased her Patrón”) and points out how his come-up was ordained: “I was born in ’95, I been ready since ’91…Sense a cougar headin’ for that ass? Boy, you better run.” It checks every box for a great rap intro and puts Keef in pole position to floor it.

So 2 is this big all the way through. Keef stays restless, indulging wild thoughts and building them out to feature-length productions. “Drifting Away” is a marvel of Zaytoven-esque pianos, 808 thumps, glitching synths, and digital flutes that shimmer and stomp behind Keef’s money talk and jabs at Kanye West’s claims of innovating drill music. Ironically, it sounds far removed from drill, like it would’ve slotted as neatly on Uzi’s Eternal Atake or any one of TisaKorean’s last few albums. That’s the magic of Chief Keef—even when he’s sticking to the script, he can make the unexpected happen. Tierra Whack might not have been the first rapper to come to mind for a Keef collab, but she catches a vicious double-time flow over the back half of “Banded Up” that perfectly compliments Keef’s half-time yelps. Would you ever expect Keef to say “I start wearing yellow diamonds, it look like I peed myself” and comparing enemies to the old mascot for Honeycombs cereal over angelic choir vocals on “Treat Myself”? Or to work Bobby Womack and Wilson Pickett samples into a roaring vintage drill track on “1,2,3”? Or to fit triplet drum rolls over spiraling piano keys on “Neph Nem”? The fact that they all feel left-field and like no-brainers is a testament to Keef’s sustained ability to surprise after 15 years.

With that confidence comes a new investment in his legacy. Keef’s still focused on present and future success, but he spends just as much of Almighty So 2 considering his arduous journey to the top. Regret and longing aren’t new to him, but at the end of his first verse on “Jesus,” he briefly works through the perspective shift that came with his move from Chicago to California. The streets of his mind are less active but he remembers every run-up. “Prince Charming” is one of several songs packed with the kind of memories treasured most by those who make it out: advice from his grandmother, the bologna that used to be on his plate, situations that made his “front yard look like a GTA car meet.”

Chief Keef put out his first mixtape at 14, recorded his breakout song “I Don’t Like” two years later while on house arrest, and found himself at the center of a label bidding war before he was a legal adult. Think about where he’s come since then. While he’s had his fair share of blunders and petulant ignorance, Almighty So 2 has more consideration for what it means to be one of the most influential rapper-producers of his generation. There’s a sense that with a larger canvas, he’s being more careful with his words and more deliberate about creating the largest rendition of himself possible. This colors every moment on So 2, from threesomes in his home movie theater to the regret of being too gone off lean to enjoy his spoils. “I could live in the jungle and come out with a hyena hat,” he says plainly on “Believe,” like he’s savoring having the rap game in his hands. After carving your own lane, seeing it transform three times over, and living to talk about it before you turn 30, what better way is there to celebrate?